Thousands of union members from across New York will rally at the state Capitol today when Gov. David Paterson delivers his first State of the State speech before a joint session of the Legislature.
The March for Main Street will seek greater fairness and better priorities for the middle class than what the governor has proposed in his state budget, said Stephen Madarasz, spokesperson for the 300,000-member Civil Service Employees Union. There are about 28,000 state employees in the Capital Region.
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The rally will begin at the Times Union Center at 11:15 a.m. A march will begin at 11:45 a.m. with participants exiting the main entrance on South Pearl Street and proceeding up Beaver Street and into East Capitol Park.
Traffic in downtown Albany will be rerouted to accommodate the rally. South Pearl Street will be closed in the morning and Madison Avenue will be closed in the afternoon.
“We are trying to sound the alarm to the general public that jobs, services and communities are at risk,” said Madarasz. “We believe the governor’s approach to the budget deficit will have a disproportionate negative impact on middle class New Yorkers.”
Paterson has proposed reductions in virtually every area of state spending, including education, health care, human services, the state work force and others. These actions are expected to produce $2 billion of savings in 2008-09 and $3.2 billion in 2009-10.
Madarasz said he believes that people don’t really grasp what the cuts will mean to them as taxpayers and residents of the state.
“When you look at the cuts for health care, and when you look at the cuts for localities, there is no question it will have an enormous negative effect on communities, but it might not be felt for several months. So until it actually affects real people they don’t grasp the significance of it,” he said.
Madarasz said the governor has made significant cuts for localities and school districts, which will mean job losses and loss of services in local communities and school districts.
“Those localities and school districts will have to raise property taxes, and that’s the biggest problem that we have in New York state — the property tax burden. We are baffled that the governor won’t take a more progressive approach and look at the income tax code.”
Madarasz suggested overhauling the state income tax code.
“The income tax is a more progressive tax and it’s fairer, rather than burdening people with more property taxes,” said Madarasz.
Mark Genovese, spokesperson for the New York State Nurses Association, said some 3,000 nurses are expected to attend the march.
“Our issues concern the availability of health care and how the governor’s proposed budget could lead to cuts in aid to the health care system, funding for the health care system in general and the resulting job cuts,” said Genovese.
“Patients are already waiting to seek medical attention until their illnesses get worse. Most of the registered nurses in hospitals across the state are already working short-handed. This is only going to make it worse. “
Dawn Curry-Clarry, political director of Local 200 United, said this march is historic because so many labor organizations are coming together.
“We recognize the state is in a huge financial crisis,” said Curry-Clarry. “We just want to make sure the cuts the governor makes are fair across the board.”
CDTA customers who need more information about service reroutes or other bus service can call CDTA’s Customer Information Center at 482-8822 or check the CDTA Web site at www.cdta.org.